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Reclaiming Christ's message

"No longer believing in God, most of us become bored of the infinite variety the 'amusement culture' offers ... and turn to that which is even more interesting than sex--death."


In a Tonight Show spoof last week, Jay Leno showed a Christmas card that read: "Peace On Earth." The inside message read: "Just Kidding. Donald Rumsfeld." There's a lot of truth in humor, and for the third year in a row the Christian world awaits the birth of the Prince of Peace while the United States simultaneously wages war on several fronts.

The reelection of George W. Bush may have been an affirmation of moral values for some Americans, but not for a trio of Duke Divinity School scholars who joined more than 200 other Christian leaders recently in condemning our nation's "Theology of War."

In a full page USA Today ad taken out the day before Election Day, Duke Divinity School professors Will Willimon, Richard B. Hays and Stanley Hauerwas signed, "Confessing Christ in a World of Violence."

The statement said a theology of war "emanating from the highest circles of American government" was "seeping into our churches as well ... The roles of God, church, and nation are confused by talk of an American 'mission' and 'divine appointment' to 'rid the world of evil.'

"In this time of crisis, we need a new confession of Christ ... Peacemaking is central to our vocation in a troubled world."

With no end in sight for the so-called war on terror, more religious leaders have been speaking out against violence and war. Local Christians have also signed on to the national "Ekklesia Project: A School For Subversive Friendships." The project is attempting to reclaim the nonviolent message of Jesus from a culture overwhelmed by consumerism, despair and death, says Duke doctoral student and ethics instructor Jana Bennett, an endorser of The Ekklesia Project.

Bennett says the project is "a group of Christian friends who are committed to telling each other the best way to follow Jesus Christ," while seeking alternatives to the "Culture of Death" that we live in. "There is a lack of knowledge about the Christian story," she says.

Duke Divinity School professors Amy Laura Hall and Joel Shuman, Shaw University Prof. Michael Broadway and several others from around the Triangle have endorsed The Ekklesia Project.

"What you find here are theologically orthodox Christians who are politically radical, and that's a combination people aren't used to today," says Hauerwas, who co-authored with Michael L. Budde, the first Ekklesia Project pamphlet.

The pamphlet doesn't mince words: "We believe the failure of the church to demand and require overriding loyalty and devotion from those that would claim to be Christian is nowhere better revealed than in the Christian capitulation to war ... No longer believing in God, most of us become bored of the infinite variety the 'amusement culture' offers (sex, power, fantasies, sham risk-taking, etc.) and turn to that which is even more interesting than sex--death."

In the classroom, Bennett says she often encounters students in despair over the emptiness of the culture, and the church is unable to provide remedies for the despair because church has become essentially "a social activity, a nice club."

Says Hauerwas: "Christians need to start getting serious about being Christian ... What people think Christianity means is what George Bush and the Christian right say it means. The Ekklesia Project is not trying to be an alternative to the religious right, but by God if you want an alternative to the religious right, we're it."

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